Baseball star Yogi Berra summed up the situation perfectly, saying it’s déjà vu all over again, at least as far as BSkyB, and the other finalists are concerned in the English Premier League football bidding war.
First, BSkyB has paid £100 million more, per season, than the highest-expected estimates. But Sky knows what it’s doing. It’s had more than 20 years of being forced by wannabe rivals to over-pay for football and other exclusive TV rights. Rupert Murdoch must be smiling, despite the higher costs.
If only the same could be said for the other players in this ridiculous game. This time around it is BT, keen to get its hand on what it sees as the key to wild riches and subscription success and which paid a fortune for 38 games. ESPN, sensibly, dropped out of the bidding and even deep-pocketed Al Jazeera Sport finally recognised that £1 billion a season is an awful lot of moolah.
But cast your memory back a few years when it was Setanta making those same noises. Go back even further when it was ONdigital that thought football would make a difference.
The fact is that over-paying for sports rights when you don’t know what you’re doing is a fast-track route to bankruptcy. You also have to wonder where BT thinks its sports fans have been hiding. Of course, we wish them luck in winning new subscribers, but we are not counting our chickens.
As for Sky, it was due to raise prices next month by around two per cent, the first such rise for two years. It could easily make that rise three per cent and still be in the ‘catching up with inflation’ argument. The same can be applied a year from now when it has to start writing those massive cheques.